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Niche consultancies pioneering crucial NHS innovation - TRUSTECH

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Manchester: Keith Chantler, executive director at TRUSTECH, looks at the specialist consultancies driving innovation across the UK's National Health Service.

The National Health Service (NHS) is regarded as the leading public healthcare system in the world. What is perhaps not so widely appreciated is the growing level of collaboration between the NHS and industry. The goal is to accelerate the development of innovative medical technologies and solutions, and their adoption, by hospitals and healthcare service providers. Scientists and researchers are making significant advances in identifying new ways to diagnose and treat a wide range of health conditions and diseases. Our clinicians need access to the latest technology, and tools to deliver the best and most effective patient care in both hospital and community settings

This drive for partnership has generated some exciting collaborations between NHS hospitals and innovative private sector companies. The growth of health technology campuses based near to or on NHS clinical sites has opened the way for rapid development of new ideas and translation into commercially viable new products and services. UK and international companies are excited by the prospect of this kind of partnership working and now seek specialist consultancies that are able to provide the much needed link or bridge.

The link

As the global healthcare market continues to experience change, there are significant opportunities for consultancies. Commercial organisations are increasingly turning to specialists to support them in a range of areas from developing innovations such as medical devices or equipment, to help with diagnostics or screening tools, education and training materials, and software or information technology services.

With growing and ageing populations, in most developed countries, the global healthcare consulting market is also growing. The latter point is coupled to the enduring relevance of improving healthcare through innovation, which is how TRUSTECH has carved a niche in the market — in fact this is its mission statement, and is why it continues to strengthen relationships between academia, industry and healthcare.

Of course, there are many management consultancies in the UK providing broad healthcare knowledge related services, but TRUSTECH has one significant advantage over them — it is part of the NHS itself. Now with over 200 'man' years of NHS experience, TRUSTECH is well placed to assess the potential of existing products for use in NHS settings, and to help organisations develop new technologies and services to meet the needs of the NHS.

TRUSTECH's story

As one of the first NHS innovation units, TRUSTECH, which is based in Manchester, has maintained a leading presence in the healthcare consultancy market since inception in 2001.

NHS Innovation units are regional services, established by the NHS over the last decade. They provide services to NHS organisations that include the management of intellectual property and the inward introduction of new treatments, diagnostics and services to the NHS. They now operate on a commercial basis and also work extensively with industry, providing a range of valuable services including clinical validations, trials and technology development. There are currently seven in England and similar arrangements in NI and Scotland.

Manchester boasts impressive credentials, and is already recognised as a medical and health pioneer. In fact, Aneurin Bevin inaugurated the NHS at The Trafford Hospital in 1948; it is a city known for its world firsts, and a tour de force in the healthcare sector.

In recent years, Manchester has seen an expansion of its cluster of thriving healthcare companies. One of the drivers for this was, that a number of organisations based locally, began working closely with each other to support the development and adoption of novel technologies and services. This has resulted in Manchester becoming one of the hotspots for healthcare innovation, not just in Europe, but globally — a fact that the Government implicitly recognised recently with its plan to devolve control of the health budget to Greater Manchester councils, and to model integration of health and social care across the region.

Manchester attracts professionals with world-class expertise across all healthcare disciplines. The City's ability to entice high profile healthcare businesses is ever-growing, and the availability and easy access to facilities, expertise and resources provides the perfect breeding ground for innovation to flourish. This innovation ecosystem is also home to the largest integrated clinical-academic campus in Europe, Europe's biggest cancer treatment centre and a number of top quality medical research institutes.

Furthermore, a surge in medtech growth has also seen a wave of specialist facilities emerge. The MedTECH Centre Incubator (MTCi), is a joint venture between TRUSTECH, Central Manchester University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (CMFT) and Manchester Science Partnerships (MSP), which is built on the premise that the NHS needs to engage with innovators and cultivate new ideas. It is also one of the first joint ventures of its kind between the NHS and the private sector.

Collaboration is key

To develop innovative solutions or practice for the benefit of patients, it is vital for organisations, both NHS and non-NHS, to work together. This is where TRUSTECH adds significant value; by interfacing between the NHS, customers, vendors and suppliers, industry and academia, to create valuable, robust and effective relationships.

The NHS needs to focus on utilising its resources in order to be more efficient, including adopting technologies from outside the NHS, and forging strong bonds with the organisations set up to facilitate early adoption. Equally, the commercial sector needs to learn from the NHS to develop solutions that meet the NHS needs. Manchester is leading the way here, and is a world-class example of the success that results from the clustering of organisations across different technology and services sectors; by collaborating to achieve a unified goal.

TRUSTECH has been a key facilitator and implementer of such collaboration, and has been at the heart of many healthcare innovations for more than a decade. Innovation is imperative to the future of healthcare in many ways; and it provides the sector with an opportunity to shine not just locally, but regionally, nationally and globally.

Looking forward

Over the years we have seen a significant change in the healthcare consultancy market, and I believe this point in time marks the rise of niche consultancies like ours that provide unique and unrivalled access into the world of healthcare. Our success stems from links between healthcare, academia, industry and the NHS, and the world class resources, expertise and facilities within TRUSTECH — and those links have never been more valuable.

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